“My” Ireland

I’ve been four times in ten years now. I am trying to make it mine.

I know there are people who take “big” trips every year, but I’m not one of them; when I was a young married we didn’t have the money for such things, and then I was a single mom and really didn’t have the money for such things. So four visits to Eire in a decade seems miraculous to me, and I have wrung every possible thrill from them. 🙂

Already more trips are in the planning stages. And I’m thinking about what I want to see. Because things are always changing and evolving.

Recent changes were a bit of a surprise:

• At Brú na Bóinne, Dowth isn’t on the Knowth tour anymore. You can drive to it, if you desire (and can find it on your own; I always seem to get lost over in Meath). I don’t know what to make of this; is Dowth unimportant now?

• The National Gallery has been completely rearranged and modernized (since I saw it in 2006). Actually, the reburbishment is still ongoing, and as a result, there are certain key works that may not be available—like Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ. Missing it last September was a huge disappointment. Also, to be frank, I loved the old-fashioned creaky floors.

• The Rock of Cashel has a fancy brickwork sidewalk and a paved road now; in 2003 it was much more rustic. I didn’t mind the old rough path; it felt authentic. However, I also didn’t mind that nice new bench at the halfway mark. 🙂

• There is a little car park at the Drombeg stone circle now. It used to be that you simply drove to the end of the lane, parked, and slipped through a break in the hedgerow—and there they were, the stones. These days you park a hundred yards or so further out, and walk. It’s nice, I guess, but just more evidence of modernization where none is needed. I mean, it’s from the Bronze Age, y’all.

• The bayside cemetery just outside Bantry town has a memorial now, with that spooky sculpture of drowning people. I didn’t like it much, and that has nothing to do with my resistance to change.

• When I stepped outside the graveyard at the cathedral at Kilfenora—to see the West Cross out in the field—I was shocked to see that some farm buildings had been built to the south and the field itself bisected into several cattle pens. The farmer can do what he wants with his land, of course, but it was still a bit of a disappointment.

• I’ve seen the Cliffs of Moher go through three iterations. In 2003, we parked in a field on the same side of the highway as the cliffs and walked about fifty yards out to the edge and looked over. Seriously, there was barely a handrail. The gift shop was a tiny shack. In 2006, they’d started the renovations, including moving the car park to the other side of the road; it’s a bit of a hike now (though in 2006 and 2012 I had pneumonia, so it would feel like a hike, I guess). O’Brien’s Tower was closed in 2006. Now, good Lord, the whole complex is like Disneyland—all bricked and curbed and gift-shopped to death. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm; I know it makes me sound like an old fart. 🙂

Glendalough has been subjected to the same Disneyland treatment, I’m sorry to say. The entrance is completely different; you no longer walk through the sanctuary gates first. In fact, I felt like we were coming in through the back door and was very, very cranky about it.

All of this changing and renovation is inevitable, I guess. And it won’t deter me from revisiting places (or seeing new sights). For example:

• I’d love to go back to Cork when I don’t have pneumonia. There’s a lot there I haven’t seen. I particularly want to go to the English Market and, you know, eat my way through it. 🙂

• Glandore village is calling my name. I want to check in to one of these places during the off season when it’s nice and quiet, and take all my meals in the pub so I can watch the water while I eat.

• I’ve grown to love Kilkenny and the surrounding area. I’d love to visit the farm shops around Mileeven Honey in Pilltown, and I definitely want to stop in at Nicholas Mosse again, maybe take the tour this time.

• Farm shops in general are something I’d like to make a tour of. There’s the Red Stables farmer’s market, Saturdays in St. Anne’s Park in Dublin, for example. And Sonairte, on the Laytown Road in between Julianstown and Laytown. And of course there are specialty food shops all over Dublin. OMG, now I’m thinking about cheese.

• I’d like to have a quiet vacation on one of the eastern beaches. Portmarnock, maybe, or someplace in Wicklow.

• I’m also very fond of Lahinch. It’s both small enough and big enough and I love everybody at Kenny’s Bar. I prefer the off-season, frankly, when things are down to a low roar. Late fall, say.

• I want to go back to the National Botanic Garden in Glasnevin, Dublin. I only had sixty minutes to spend there, which means a lot went unseen. There are plenty of parks and gardens in Dublin I haven’t seen, in fact.

• There’s still a lot I’d like to do in Dublin. The Temple Bar Book Market, for example. Marsh’s Library. The James Joyce Centre and the Dublin Writers Museum. I’d like to revisit the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle.

• Finally, I have yet to see the Aran Islands, and I’d like to spend more time in Co. Donegal. Last time we sort of rushed through.

It’s a worthy list, don’t you think?

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All Windy on the Western Front

Day 16 / Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My body clock goes off very early, and I wish I knew how to reset it. At home I tell myself it’s because the felines wake me up … but the truth is, even with a bed all to myself, I am awake at 5:30 almost every day.

Not that I mind. I get to see the sunrise most days. This is the view from our window at Craglea Lodge in Lahinch. All three homes on the left side (one you can’t see) belong to Kennys.

Not that I mind. I get to see the sunrise most days. This is the view from our window at Craglea Lodge in Lahinch. All three homes on the left side (one you can’t see) belong to Kennys.

Nine years ago September was warm and pleasant, but these last few days in the 2012 September were windy and cold. (It was, in fact, far too windy for an Aran Islands trip—but we’d known that was a strong possibility.) Of course, we didn’t stay in Lahinch nine years ago. No, Gerry and I came here in 2006 … in February. And February on the western shore of Ireland, my friends, is a chilly proposition.

Nonetheless, I fell in love with this town. It’s small (pop. 600), and the folks are really friendly, particularly during the off season. During the on season, it’s a popular resort town with 1) a gorgeous beach on Liscannor Bay that’s perfect for surfing and 2) the world-famous Lahinch Golf Club. It’s much more crowded then, and I’m not sure I’d like it as much.

Lahinch beach at low tide. You can see Liscannor (pop. 71) across the bay.

Lahinch beach at low tide. You can see Liscannor (pop. 71) across the bay.

For comparison, here’s high tide.

For comparison, here’s high tide.

Edel told us last night she’d normally be closed by now, but when I’d contacted her about our visit, she’d decided it was worth staying open for two rooms for three nights. And then because she’d made the decision, she accepted a few other lodgers. We saw one group in the dining room the next morning. (Sometimes you really can spot Yanks a mile away: this group—two women and a man—were all wearing ball caps, all talking very loud.) They left this morning, though, and by evening we were the only ones in the house.

I’m glad Edel decided to keep Craglea Lodge open. It’s nice. And her help serves homemade scones warm out of the oven every morning. 🙂

After breakfast we headed out for the Cliffs of Moher because we’d been advised that in spite of the heavy cloud cover and fine mist, the strong gusts of wind would drive it all away and visibility would be fine. I’ve been to the cliffs three times now, although the first—in 2003—I didn’t see anything because the mist was so heavy. You really do have to be prepared with a flexible schedule (and that year we weren’t) to allow for the possibility of poor visibility. I’d been very disappointed and made certain to plan flexibility on this trip.

Things have changed a lot since that first misty visit. In 2003, we parked on the same side of the road as the cliffs and walked about fifty yards out to the edge. I mean, literally to the edge. There was a small shack that functioned as a gift shop.

The approach to the cliffs in 2003. A short railing was all that stood between visitors and the sea (once you’d turned right or left, the walk along the cliff was virtually unimpeded, except for the warning signs). That’s a busker playing a tin whistle, with the entrance to the gift shack just beyond him to the right.

The approach to the cliffs in 2003. A short railing was all that stood between visitors and the sea (once you’d turned right or left, the walk along the cliff was virtually unimpeded, except for the warning signs). That’s a busker playing a tin whistle, with the entrance to the gift shack just beyond him to the right.

This is what I saw in 2003. That is, not much.

This is what I saw in 2003. That is, not much. You can’t get close enough to see this slab now.

When we’d visited in 2006 (on a windy, sunny day), we’d seen the scale model for everything that was planned for the new, modern site; it was very ambitious. But that year everything was a bit of a mess—just missing the “Pardon our construction” signs.

Take this, for example: the trademark Cliffs of Moher view was obstructed by fencing in 2006.

Take this, for example: the trademark Cliffs of Moher view was obstructed by fencing in 2006.

At the same time, if you wanted to get to the edge and jump off … no problem. Look how short the barrier is. Not that I believe it’s the government’s responsibility to protect potential suicides from themselves. (Yes, I cut myself out of this photo; hate my hair color from that period.) 2006.

At the same time, if you wanted to get to the edge and jump off … no problem. Look how short the barrier is. Not that I believe it’s the government’s responsibility to protect potential suicides from themselves. (Yes, I cut myself out of this photo; hate my hair color from that period.) 2006.

Danger indeed! This is the sidewalk up to O’Brien’s Tower in 2006.

Danger indeed! This is the sidewalk up to O’Brien’s Tower in 2006.

 O’Brien’s Tower in 2006. It was closed to visitors that year, so no spectacular view from the top; all we could do was walk around it. They’ve stabilized it now.

O’Brien’s Tower in 2006. It was closed to visitors that year, so no spectacular view from the top; all we could do was walk around it. They’ve stabilized it now.

It was shocking (in a good way, I guess) to see the finished product. Now it’s like Disneyland: all bricked and curbed and neat and clean … and with a fake signpost for people to take pictures of.

Look, honey! The Cliffs of Moher—thataway! Thank goodness they’ve got this sign—we’d never have found them!

Look, honey! The Cliffs of Moher—thataway! Thank goodness they’ve got this sign—we’d never have found them!

Don’t get me started on this atrocity. I’m not certain that’s even wood. (Jill’s camera.)

Don’t get me started on this atrocity. I’m not certain that’s even wood. (Jill’s camera.)

That said, there are many nice things about the site. (Although, interestingly, none of us took a photo of the setup on the way in.) The new visitors centre is actually embedded in the hillside (which is a great, green choice), as are several little craft shops that line the walkway. And the shop is quite large, unlike the tiny shack from 2003.

This photo is actually taken from atop the visitors centre, looking back the way we came in. The tour buses are parked where everyone parked nine-plus years ago. The car park is now across the highway in the far distance. The cliffs themselves are just out of the fram to the right; the craft shops are just out of the frame to the left. The entrance to the visitors centre is on the lower left, where the lady in the red coat and the big purse is about to go.

This photo is actually taken from atop the visitors centre, looking back the way we came in. The tour buses are parked where everyone parked nine-plus years ago. The car park is now across the highway in the far, far distance. The cliffs themselves are just out of the frame to the right; the craft shops are just out of the frame to the left. The entrance to the visitors centre is on the lower left, where the lady in the red coat carrying the big purse is about to go.

See? Here they are, just out of the frame to the right, the Cliffs of Moher. :) This concrete “roof” is terraced, like an amphitheater. (Margaret’s photo.)

See? Here they are, “just out of the frame to the right,” the Cliffs of Moher. 🙂 This concrete “roof” is terraced, like an amphitheater. (Margaret’s photo.)

The Cliffs of Moher, September 2012. (Pronounce it like “mower.”)

The Cliffs of Moher, September 2012. (Pronounce it like “mower.”)

It’s a view I can’t get enough of, frankly. (Margaret’s photo.)

It’s a view I can’t get enough of, frankly. (Margaret’s photo.)

There are paths along the top of the cliffs; you can walk all the way out there to Hag’s Head, which has a Napoleonic-era watchtower; you can see it here in this zoom photo. I think it’s a couple miles in that direction (south).

There are paths along the top of the cliffs; you can walk all the way out there to Hag’s Head, which has a Napoleonic-era watchtower; you can see it here in this zoom photo. I think it’s a couple miles in that direction (south).

I’m on the terraced roof. You can see how much taller the barrier is now.

I’m on the terraced roof. You can see how much taller the barrier is now.

Jill and Alli took off right away, and walked both north and south along the tops of the cliffs. I couldn’t keep up with that ambitious walk with my pneumonia-lung.

The stairway up to O’Brien’s Tower (on the left in the distance).

The stairway up to O’Brien’s Tower (on the left in the distance).

Gorgeous day, though! (Margaret’s photo.)

Gorgeous day, though! (Margaret’s photo.)

The observation tower—O’Brien’s Tower—was built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien for no other reason than to view the cliffs to the south. (Some say he built it to impress women he was courting!)

Taken on the walk up to O’Brien’s Tower; note the stairs on the right. (Jill’s photo.)

Taken on the walk up to O’Brien’s Tower; note the stairs on the right. (Jill’s photo.)

Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower. (Jill’s photo.)

Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower. (Jill’s photo.)

Eventually we all ended up back at the visitors centre, which had a large gift shop, some exhibits, and a really nice café upstairs with fantastic views of the cliffs.

The café at the Cliffs of Moher. We lingered here for awhile before getting back in the car.

The café at the Cliffs of Moher. We lingered here for awhile before getting back in the car.

There is so, so much to see in this small area, much of it in what’s called the Burren—a karst limestone region that seems, at first, quite bleak, but which has a beauty all its own. I’ve been told botanists come from all over the world to study what grows there among the rocks (arctic, Mediterranean, and alpine plants). And it is rich with history too. There are more than ninety megalithic tombs (including Poulnabrone), several ring forts (Cahercommaun and Caherconnell, to name two), ruins of medieval churches (Carron, Oughtmama, Corcomroe Abbey, Dysert O’Dea, and others), caves, cathdrals, abandoned castles … You could spend days seeing it all. (And I have. If you looked at the link for Carron Church, you’ll see a photo of a dog; I met her, too, on a rainy day in 2006.)

But we only had hours, not days, so first we went to the cathedral in Kilfenora (pop. 169)—St. Fachtnan’s. Built around 1189 on the site of Fachtnan’s original monastery, this small church, by a quirk of language, actually belongs to the pope. (Yes, that pope. He’s the bishop here. Don’t ask me to explain.) This would be my third visit.

Interestingly, because it was my third visit, I didn’t take as many photos as I have in years past, although some are very different. This one, for example, which is the backside of the church. Some gravestones can be seen through the open gate in the wall that surrounds the churchyard.

Interestingly, because it was my third visit, I didn’t take as many photos as I have in years past, although some are very different. This one, for example, which is the backside of the church. Some gravestones can be seen through the open gate in the wall that surrounds the churchyard.

This is the north side of the yard. You can see a relatively new grace on the far left; the one in the foreground is nineteenth-century. (Margaret’s photo.)

This is the north side of the yard. You can see a relatively new grave on the far left; the one in the foreground is nineteenth-century. (Margaret’s photo.)

What you see ahead is called the Lady Chapel.

What you see ahead is called the Lady Chapel.

Between our visit in September 2003 and our return in February 2006, the Lady Chapel, once roofless, was spruced up with a glass roof. Frankly, I love it. It makes no pretense about belonging; at the same time, it doesn’t distract from the old stone structure.

St. Fachnan’s main claim to fame is the marvelous high crosses associated with it—now just three are still extant. (You can read about all eight of them here; it’s very interesting.) So there are three: the Doorty, the North, and the West, or High cross. Now two of them have been moved inside—to the Lady Chapel, under that glass roof—from the churchyard, to preserve them from the elements. This has been going on all over Ireland, an attempt to keep the intricate carvings on these precious artifacts from eroding. Generally they are housed right on the premises, as here; sometimes they install … um … fakes, back out in the churchyard. 🙂 Not here, though. On my 2003 visit, I saw these crosses in the yard.

This is the Doorty cross; that’s a bishop, St. Fachtnan.

This is the Doorty cross; that’s a bishop, St. Fachtnan.

The reverse of the Doorty cross, showing Christ. (Margaret’s photo.)

The reverse of the Doorty cross, showing Christ. (Margaret’s photo.)

This is the front of the North cross. (Jill’s photo.)

This is the front of the North cross. (Jill’s photo.)

From the Lady Chapel we walked into the still-roofless chancel. It’s lovely. (This website has some interesting photos of Kilfenora’s little church, possibly taken in the 1980s. You will see that many artifacts have been removed—I’m not sure where they are now; perhaps locked up inside the part of the church that is still roofed and unavailable to us tourists? That’s a bit of a disappointment.)

This wall faces east, thus the rising sun would stream through these windows, in front of which would have been the altar.

This wall faces east, thus the rising sun would stream through these windows, in front of which would have been the altar.

This is, I believe, a sedile (a seat for the priest), although it could be a piscina (a shallow basin used to wash communion vessels). Note the bishop’s effigy above it. You can find references to this specific artifact being a sedile (or sedilia, since it would seat more than one) all over the web. But I’m not sure. It’s too small to be a tomb. Perhaps when I’m next there I can find someone who knows definitively. :) (Margaret’s photo.)

This is, I believe, a sedile (a seat for the priest), although it could be a piscina (a shallow basin used to wash communion vessels). Note the bishop’s effigy above it. It seems too small to be a tomb. Perhaps when I’m next there I can find someone who knows definitively. 🙂 (Margaret’s photo.)

The bishop in his mitre, right above the sedile. He looks rather determined, don’t you think?

The bishop in his mitre, right above the sedile. He looks rather determined, don’t you think?

There are still some interesting gravestones in the chancel. This one is in Latin, but has dates in the 1680s, ’90s, and 1700; apparently it represents several members of a family. Don’t forget you can click twice to zoom in on photos.

There are still some interesting gravestones in the chancel. This one is in Latin, but has dates in the 1680s, ’90s, and 1700; apparently it represents several members of a family. Don’t forget you can click twice to zoom in on photos.

Some praying clerics at the top of a column.

Some praying clerics at the top of a column.

The best, for me, is the West cross—and it’s not even on church grounds anymore. I did get a bit of a shock, though, when I saw the large open field of my memory had been sectioned into a half-dozen livestock pens.

Looking out the churchyard gate into the lane. Can you see the cross in the distance? It’s quite large. Let’s walk out there.

Looking out the churchyard gate into the lane. Can you see the cross in the distance? It’s quite large. Let’s walk out there.

Looking back the way we’ve just come.

Looking back the way we’ve just come.

It’s nearly fifteen feet tall. And isn’t it just gorgeous? This face depicts the risen Christ.

It’s nearly fifteen feet tall. And isn’t it just gorgeous? This face depicts the risen Christ.

We drove on into the bleak Burren for our final stop of the day: the Poulnabrone (pronounce this POWL-na-BRONE-ah) dolmen. It is arguably the most famous in Ireland, and its iconic silhouette can be seen everywhere. (Remember, we saw an inflatable of it in Dublin!) The site dates back to … well, who knows. I’ve seen dates ranging from 4200 BC 2500 BC. It was excavated twenty or so years ago, and contained the remains of both children and adults, most under the age of thirty. (It was a very hard life.) Still, we can only speculate about the actual purpose of this tomb.

First sight of Poulnabrone. It’s near the road but you have to walk in to see it.

First sight of Poulnabrone. It’s near the road but you have to walk in to see it.

This is the iconic silhouette. (Margaret’s photo.)

This is the iconic silhouette. (Margaret’s photo.)

A different view. (Jill’s photo.)

A different view. (Jill’s photo.)

You have to be really, really careful where you put your feet out here. It’s a twisted ankle waiting to happen!

You have to be really, really careful where you put your feet out here. It’s a twisted ankle waiting to happen!

The Burren. Designed by glaciers.

The Burren. Designed by glaciers.

This is typical Burren landscape.

This is typical Burren landscape.

It was really, really cold!

It was really, really cold!

When it’s that windy and cold, you get tired quick, so we headed back to Kenny’s in Lahinch for grub and the free wi-fi. Password is kennysbar.ie in case you’re ever there.

I had potato and leek soup and a salad. I loved the way the cook piled different interesting things in the salad with a dollop of homemade coleslaw and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Tasty. (Margaret’s photo.)

I had potato and leek soup and a salad. I loved the way the cook piled different interesting things in the salad with a dollop of homemade coleslaw and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Tasty. (Margaret’s photo.)

The cook heard there were Yanks about and came out and spoke with us. I should say, he had quite a conversation with the cool Californians in our group! Ha! Margaret and I might as well have not been there. :)

The cook heard there were Yanks about and came out and spoke with us. I should say, he had quite a conversation with the cool Californians in our group! Ha! Margaret and I might as well have not been there. 🙂

Our room at Edel’s was really nice, with a pair of barrel chairs snugged in under the eaves, which have a window looking out on the Kenny compound (grandparents and siblings all live on this little lane). From there I watched the sun go down.

Sundown at the Kenny compound in Lahinch. Again, that’s Liscannor you see across the bay.

Sundown at the Kenny compound in Lahinch. Again, that’s Liscannor you see across the bay.

Today’s Image

This morning I sat in this same chair while Margaret slept, watching the ravens on the peak of the roof of the house in front of the B&B (the small one on the right in the photo above). It was very windy, a steady wind, and the birds were all facing into the wind. One spread its wings and lifted its feet … and then it was flying in one place, just enough to rise up and drift backward onto the edge of the chimney, about two feet higher than he was. Smooth move.

A Visit to Doc Shannon …er, ShannonDoc

Sunday, 12 February 2006, Co. Clare
After another night of coughing that I could feel from my waist to the top of my head, I was finally convinced I was not getting better. Isn’t that what we always think, that we’re about to turn the corner? It was definitely wishful thinking in this case. In fact, I was concerned that I was getting a sinus infection, and rather than wait for it to make me truly miserable (I wrote in my notes: “My neck, my cheeks, my ears, even my teeth hurt”), and possibly spoil my trip, I decided I’d had enough. Gerry’d been patient and kind and attentive, but TLC was no longer enough. I wanted drugs.

This makes it sound all very civilized, when in fact what happened was I hobbled into the living room, threw myself on the couch, and whimpered, while, possibly, shedding a few tears, “I’m sooo sick. Do you think you can find me a doctor, like, right now? Pleeeeeze?”

Gerry dialed 11811, which, in Ireland, gets you both Yellow Pages (called Golden Pages) directory assistance and regular old information too. And it’s live, not automated. He requested a doctor in Lahinch, and was given a number to call. This was at eight a.m., which is important to the story; you see, it seems Gerry was given the number of a doctor who is retired. Actually—he woke him up. The man was then kind enough to rouse his wife, who got up and located the number of an after-hours clinic! In spite of the fact that it involves my causing two elderly folk to be woken out of a sound sleep on a Sunday morning, this is my favorite story of the trip. 🙂

Lucky, lucky me: Gerry called the clinic and learned it was in Ennistymon, or, actually, just outside Ennistymon, on the Lahinch side. So it was very close, a five-minute drive. “Just look for the ShannonDoc sign,” we were told, and to arrive at ten-thirty. No prob.

Gerry cooked up a wonderful breakfast that I could hardly eat, and by ten-twenty we were turning up the long drive to an old folks’ home, out of the back of which ShannonDoc operates, as Gerry mused aloud that the name sounded like an American television show (Doc Shannon: the story of a kind, small-town country doctor saving life and limb in the wilds of western Ireland! Tune in next week when a rich American benefactor of Irish ancestry gifts the Doc with a helicopter, to dramatically increase the amount of lives and limbs he can save! You won’t want to miss this touching episode, etc.!).

The waiting room was in the home’s dining room, empty, at that hour, of the elderly, although the décor was distinctly … old-folksy. While we waited (Gerry with his newspaper, me with my book), the loudspeaker on the wall crackled into action, as a small choir of really old women with quavery voices began singing a hymn, a capella. It was time for mass to begin, and it was being broadcast to everyone in the home, even us sick people waiting in the dining-slash-waiting room.

We were only there a short time, but I remember the kindness of the nurse, who stroked my arm with tenderness as she took my temperature, speaking quietly to me as she wrote in my chart, assuring me that I’d be well taken care of (not that I was worried). The doctor was a gentle, long-haired man in his early forties who said, as he looked at my chart, “the closest I ever got to Tennessee was Harlan County, Kentucky,” which, all things considered, I told him, was pretty darned close! It seems I was wheezy (I’d listened to that wheeze for two nights), developing bronchitis; he gave me a day-and-a-half’s worth of antibiotics and a prescription for more. He was very thorough, even informing me that the pills I would get from the pharmacist might be a different color. The whole episode took half an hour and cost forty euro (roughly forty-eight dollars), which I didn’t think was bad at all.

But this is my vacation. I’d like to see something.

So from there we set off to explore the Burren (from the Gaelic boireann, meaning a rock or a stony place), which, as I mentioned earlier, is a geologically important land formation of stratified karst limestone in northwest County Clare, about 115 square miles of it. It’s nearly impossible to describe; I read something interesting just now that said it’s not obvious like, say, the Grand Canyon. After all, Ireland is a rocky place anyway. You could just … not notice it. 🙂

But then you do: those hills aren’t green, they’re grey.

See it? The grey hills? That’s the Burren.

See it? The grey hills? That’s the Burren.

Look closer now. Those are hills of limestone.

Look closer now. Those are hills of limestone.

And suddenly you find yourself driving down lanes between fields of stone, like pavement, eroded into interesting patterns; underneath there are huge caves and rivers that can flood when it rains (spelunking is not for amateurs here, as it can be dangerous). Let’s not even discuss the potential for twisted ankles, since it makes me cringe. It is a very inhospitable land, and it goes on for miles and miles.

But you know it when you see it. The Burren.

But you know it when you see it. The Burren.

It would have been a hard, hard existence here, eking out a life from this rough landscape, yet you can find remnants of whole villages that were abandoned—either through death or emigration—during the Famine, which is fairly recent. That they were, actually, living here is the fault of Oliver Cromwell, a horrible man, the English Lord Protector who’d recently toppled King Charles in the English Civil War and was now engaged in a ten-year war of extermination (that is, genocide) against the Irish. (Actually, Cromwell had it in for Catholics, but at that time the Irish were almost all Catholic.) By the mid-1600s he had forced them to surrender, and tried to crush the Irish resistance by deporting thousands of land-owning Irishmen to west of the Shannon, saying he would send them “to Hell or Connaught!” (The Burren is a part of the province of Connaught.) At the sight of this poor and barren province, even one of Cromwell’s own generals observed that there was “neither water enough to drown a man, nor a tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him.”

There’s strong evidence of a thriving prehistoric life in the Burren too. There are megalithic stone hilltop cairns (graves), wedge tombs, and portal tombs (called dolmens) that date as far back as 3800 BC (although they were used well into the Bronze Age, which is put at 2200–500 BC). There are over three hundred fulachta fiadh—horseshoe-shaped mounds of burnt stone, built around stone or timber water toughs, which are the remains of giant Bronze Age cooking-pits, and there are stone circles too. There are several impressive stone forts that date from the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500). And early Christianity is represented as well, with up to eighty-two ecclesiastical sites—church ruins, cemeteries, hermitages and monastic enclosures, holy wells, saints’ seats or beds, and penitential stations—covering a millennium of worship.

I find this all quite amazing, given what the Burren looks like.

We’d watched the weather (on the all-Gaelic-all-the-time channel), which had indicated that we’d get rain all day. Indeed, the wind had blown ferociously through the night, and the morning light had been slow in coming due to the heavy overcast. After watching the forecast, I’d expected it to be pouring down rain, but it was just a light/thick mist, really. We drove down the N6 toward Lisdoonvarna, stopping off in Kilfenora to visit the little twelfth-century cathedral there.

This was a repeat visit; we were here in 2003. And, like the discovery I’d made yesterday at the Cliffs, progress has reached the little cathedral here, too: they’ve put a lovely glass roof on the once-roofless north transept (the south transept is completely gone). I actually was quite taken with it (watch for a photo); after all, a new roof is a new roof. This one makes no pretense about “fitting in”—it is sleek and modern and lets in plenty of light; I just really liked the juxtaposition of the thousand-year-old stones and the modern glass roof.

Love the glass roof at St. Fachnan’s.

Love the glass roof at St. Fachnan’s.

Kilfenora has three very famous high crosses; now two of them have been moved inside from the churchyard, to preserve them from the elements. This has been going on all over Ireland, an attempt to keep the intricate carvings from eroding.

The Doorty Cross, east face, in 2006.

The Doorty Cross, east face, in 2006.

The Doorty Cross, west face.

The Doorty Cross, west face.

Generally they house them right on the premises, as they do in Kilfenora; often they install … um … fakes, back out in the churchyard. Inside the chancel there is an interesting Gothic style sedilia built into the wall (a seat for the priest), above it is the carved head of a bishop.

The sedilia inside the old cathedral.

The sedilia inside the old cathedral.

Even though there were no overt drops of rain, it was very, very wet. This is an interesting and very Irish situation, it seems to me; walking around in it was less unpleasant than being in a downpour, even a light one, but we were getting just as soaked. So we got back in the car with the intention of finding the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a well-known site that we’d failed to find in 2003 (when we were driving around in a downpour).

On our way there I saw a little old church out in a field, and stopped to investigate. To get from the road into the field I had to go into a shallow ditch and up over a stone stile; there was a farm dog running around, following a couple who’d gone in before me about a minute earlier, although he came back and gave me a few friendly wags of his tail before running off on some other dogly errand. I watched as the pair climbed over a second stile into the churchyard; the iron gate has long since rusted shut.

The iron gate to the churchyard—long since rusted shut. Look for the cairn too. (Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it, then clicking again.

The iron gate to the churchyard—long since rusted shut. Look for the cairn too. (Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it, then clicking again.

We learned, together (from a sign near the gate), that this is Carron Church, and it served the largest parish in Clare until the sixteenth century, when it began to decline. The initial building was erected around 1200, but some of what is there now dates from the fifteenth century. You can see this in the photo of the doorway below—you can see the edge of the older material, and what was added, perhaps after a raid of some sort: a hodgepodge of materials that came to hand, including an old broken grindstone, a half-circle of rock that sticks out incongruously, but which was just fine to use to rebuild the church (it’s very human and touching, it seems to me). And just so you know, that raid comment isn’t out of the blue: the church has battlements and a bartizan (a small defensive projection that allowed defenders to fire on intruders below), which suggests that the parish priest felt a need to protect himself. And, of course, he did.

Standing inside Carron Church, looking at the rebuilt doorway. See the grindstone? See the irregular “line” through the wall to the left of the doorway? This entire doorway was blasted out once, and repaired.

Standing inside Carron Church, looking at the rebuilt doorway. See the grindstone? See the irregular “line” through the wall to the left of the doorway? This entire doorway was blasted out once, and repaired.

To the south of the church there is a small mound of stones—a cairn—from which Carron probably gets its name (you can see it in the distance in the photo above of the iron gate, in front of the far fenceline). It used to be a local custom to carry coffins around the cairn before they were buried in the churchyard.

Cairns can be found all over the world, but they are very common in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—three regions that also share a language, Gaelic (although the dialects are different). They are always manmade, and the tradition may have begun as burial mounds among prehistoric peoples. They were often used as a landmark or to commemorate an event. (The Scots even have a blessing: Cuiridh mi clach air do chàrn, that is, “I’ll put a stone on your cairn.”) As a side note, cairn terriers, a breed that originated in Scotland, were bred specifically to hunt small game of the type that would live in and around a cairn.

It may seem—when you see the photos—like just another desolate pile of rocks (no pun intended), but when you’re there in person, it’s very moving. There’s no traffic noise; perhaps you hear the wind rustle through the tall grass. It’s just a silent, holy place, a monument to the hardy souls who lived in the area, squeezing a living out of the rocky fields. On Sundays, at the end of a long week, they came, perhaps in a donkey cart but more likely on foot, walking for miles to worship … right here.

Inside the sanctuary of Carron Church; it’s very old. (The white dots are rain drops on the camera lens.)

Inside the sanctuary of Carron Church; it’s very old. (The white dots are rain drops on the camera lens.)

I struck up a conversation with the other visitors, a brother and sister. Originally from County Clare, he’d moved away, but she still lives in and is very fond of Clare. He was just visiting. We talked some about the features of the church listed in the little informational sign in the churchyard, and about being here in winter, which has its drawbacks (it’s wet and chilly, after all). But she pointed out how nice it was to be here with no tour buses, and said that this was the only time of year that we could see these things without having people crawling all over. (As tourists, we often don’t think enough about the locals, and how we’re affecting their lives.) I was grateful to see this place with these two quiet people.

I mentioned, then, that we were going to Poulnabrone and they said that they were going there next too. The Poulnabrone portal (or tomb) dolmen dates from the Neolithic period, around 3400 BC. Used as burial sites, portal dolmens are always oriented toward the rising sun, indicating a reverence for the dead that suggests a religious attitude. These people—the pre-Celts—were the matriarchal society we’d learned about in the documentary we’d seen the night before. Poulnabroune is still in the process of being completely excavated; since 1986 the remains of fourteen adults and six children have been discovered, along with fragments of jewelry and pottery, arrowheads, and other artifacts.

So we got in the car and rolled a couple miles to Poulnabrone.

Poulnabrone seen from the road. You can see how we missed it in 2003 (in the rain).

Poulnabrone seen from the road. You can see how we missed it in 2003 (in the rain).

We walked around—carefully, watching where we put our feet.

Gerry, staying warm at Poulnabrone.

Gerry, staying warm at Poulnabrone.

Poulnabrone dolmen.

Poulnabrone dolmen.

Another angle of Poulnabrone, 2006.

Another angle of Poulnabrone, 2006.

It was lovely … until a tour bus pulled up.

Rant: I’d imagined … hoped … that I’d get through this trip without seeing one, but nooooooo. Nooooo. Don’t do it, kids! Don’t get on that bus! Strike out on your own! Strike out for Freedom and Truth and Beauty and stuff like that there! (ahem) But seriously. Just call me anti-structured-tour: I just don’t want to be told what to look at, what to think; I like finding my own way based on what interests me. And I certainly don’t want to be told how long I have to shop! Frankly, the “wrong” or unexpected turns we’ve taken have added just as much to the trip as the times when we’ve gone straight to our destination—sometimes much more. (Thus endeth rant.)

Anyway, this bus vomited out thirty or so bored-looking young people (I’d say they were ages eighteen to twenty-five) of a variety of nationalities. Some English-speakers (some Americans in that group), some not. It’s a short hike to the dolmen from the road, and I actually heard one girl say, once she and her friend had arrived, “There, can we go back to the bus now?”

Seriously, who is paying for this woman to take this wonderful trip? I could (maybe understand a comment like that if she were a five-year-old. (sigh)

The woman I’d spoken to at Carron Church earlier made eye contact with me and smiled, and, without missing a beat, suggested that Gerry and I might enjoy Aillwee Cave. And at that we said good-bye and moved on.

The cave was a few miles up the road, and as we drove we listened to the radio. Gerry had it tuned to RTÉ, which is sort of like NPR and sort of like the BBC. Probably more like the latter. You know you’re in Ireland, though, when it strikes the Angelus at noon and six p.m. It’s an arresting sound (the bell chimes in three groups of three, with a pause between groups); one should stop and say the Angelus (prayer) during this time. Can you imagine what might be accomplished if this actually happened?

We’d also been listening to a lot of discussion about the Irish president’s trip to Saudi Arabia; you see, from this country born of a Neolithic matriarchal society, President Mary McAleese had just been sent to address the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia—a country where women are largely prevented from voting in elections and are subject to numerous discriminatory practices, which are sometimes required by law. Indeed, at this event women were required to arrive through a separate entrance and to sit, unseen, behind a screen! Let me tell you, people were outraged. At least the ones calling in to the RTÉ talk show were. (To be fair, in her speech Ms. McAleese called for women’s participation in Saudi Arabian political and economic life.)

And then we arrived at Aillwee Cave, “Ireland’s premier showcave,” as the souvenir booklet trumpets on its cover. This is one of the many caves in (or underneath) the Burren that I mentioned earlier, but, as the booklet points out, these other caves are “wild” caves and must be treated with caution, as they react very quickly to rainfall and could be very dangerous. The most interesting thing about Aillwee (pronounce this ALL-wee), really, is the story of its discovery. They think that the first modern man to discover the cave was the landowner, Jacko McGann, in 1940. He’s described as a herdsman, but I’m not sure if that’s cattle or sheep. He was forty-four years of age at the time, and he crawled in with a candle, explored some, left his initials scratched in the wall … and then didn’t mention the cave to anyone for thirty-three years! At that time he told a group of cavers from Bristol (England) University about it, and they performed a more thorough exploration. Two years later work was begun to open the cave to the public. The booklet shows photos of “Sunday afternoons in the car park,” picturing a traditional music group and dancers (probably taken more than twenty years ago), which I think must have been fun, in a weird way. The booklet also has a very thorough timeline, which lists such items as “1980, second tea-room and terrace opened,” “1985, Japanese royal visit,” and “Jan. 1989, ice-cream kiosk constructed”—in addition to the more important stuff like “1977, sump 1 first dived by Jeff Philips” and “Mar. 1989, tour extended to take in waterfall.” 🙂

Aside from all this fascinating detail, really, it’s … well … just a cave, albeit a charming one. Like lots of caves, it maintains a constant temperature of 50°F, has bats, lots of straw stalactites, and shows evidence that prehistoric animals used it (no human evidence until Jacko entered in 1940). Most interesting are the hibernation pits and bones of a brown bear; since bears have been extinct in Ireland for over a thousand years, this part of the exhibit is pretty special.

All in all, a pleasant hour or so. On our way out, we stopped at the little Farm Shop at the bottom of Aillwee Mountain, and bought some nice fresh cheeses and local honey (the label reads, simply, “100% pure and natural, unheated and coarse filtered honey from Ben Johnson’s apiaries in the Burren, Co. Clare”), which we used at supper that night.

The “edge” of the Burren comes upon you without warning. You’ve been driving through fields of stone, and then … you’re not. I stopped and took some pictures as we left this unique region behind.

Leaving the Burren behind. Love that hairpin-curved road.

Leaving the Burren behind. Love that hairpin-curved road.

Back in Lahinch we went for a late lunch at the Shamrock Hotel (the second recommendation, you may recall), where I had a nice potato-leek soup. We wandered down to the sea and parked.

Parked along the seawall. The Spinnaker Hotel is where we’d originally reserved an apartment.

Parked along the seawall. The Spinnaker Hotel is where we’d originally reserved an apartment.

We walked along the sea wall, where I took photos of the beach at high tide. Actually there is no beach at high tide; the waves were already crashing on the rocks that support the sea wall, and as I watched the sun go down they came close enough that I could feel the spray. Time to go home!

High tide, sunset, at Lahinch, February 2006.

High tide, sunset, at Lahinch, February 2006.

Back at home, we boiled water for tea and laid out fruit, crackers and cheese, and the honey we’d bought at the farm shop. Perfect and cozy.

Tea and goodies … and even a couple books we bought at one or another gift shop.

Tea and goodies … and even a couple books we bought at one or another gift shop.

That night we watched a television dramatization of what’s known in Ireland as the Stardust Disaster. It refers to the Stardust nightclub, which burned just after midnight on Valentine’s Day in 1981, causing the deaths of forty-eight young (teens and early twenties) people (Wikipedia’s article really covers all the bases), maiming many more (over two hundred were injured), and creating devastation in the Artane neighborhood where it was located. Gerry grew up in Artane and still lives there; he was a regular at the nightclub at that time (he says it was the place to go, if you were from Artane; he and his friends usually showed up about once a week, although “none of us were there that night,” he told me). His parents were good friends with people who lost children in the fire, so it was definitely an event that touched his family, and he was interested in watching it.

As is the case with disasters such as this, there are many, many unanswered questions, and twenty-five years later the wound is still fresh; the RTÉ docu-drama itself was controversial, as many of the Stardust families, as they’re known, felt as if it was taking advantage of their pain. I myself sat there crying, watching as the parents rushed from one hospital to the next, searching for their children. The scene was very disorganized, and it was hours and hours before parents could get an accounting; some parents lost more than one child.

Even though some exits were locked and others had chains draped around the handles (to make them look as if they were locked), most of the kids might have made it had the doors opened outward. As it was, once the panic started, the people closest to the doors were simply crushed against them—there was never enough room to swing the doors inward. This gives me chills just thinking about it.

Sadly, the owner of the club collected his insurance money and went on with his life, never publicly acknowledging the families’ loss. To add insult to injury, he kept the property, which has had a car park (read: parking lot) on it; however, late last year he built a new bar, called the Silver Swan (which is the name of the pub many of the Stardust victims drank at before heading over to the nightclub back in 1981), at one end and—incredible as this may seem—planned to open it on February 14, 2006, exactly twenty-five years after the fire. Members of the Stardust families have been picketing in front of the business ever since, trying to dissuade people from entering. The opening was postponed for a few days as a result, but I believe it’s open now. No word on how well it’s doing—they’re still picketing out there.

Falling in Love With Clare

Thursday, 18 September 2003
Ennis, Co. Clare – Salthill, Co. Galway

Leaving Ennis, we modified our route to take in Kilfenora, a tiny village with a lovely twelfth-century church and some ancient high crosses. (Interestingly, quite a few of the early high crosses one might see are now … um … fakes. Which is fine with me. They take them down, out of the elements—often housing them right on the premises somewhere—and put an exact replica in place.) So we detoured to Kilfenora.

We wandered the churchyard—it was actually raining for the first time during my visit—and then Gerry motioned me to walk out the back gate.

Kilfenora Cathedral churchyard, 2003.

Kilfenora Cathedral churchyard, 2003.

The spots you see are raindrops.

The spots you see are raindrops.

I liked this one for the shamrocks. Kilfenora Cathedral churchyard, 2003.

I liked this one for the shamrocks. Kilfenora Cathedral churchyard, 2003.

There, ahead of us, alone in a field, was a truly magnificent high cross (still the original, they told us in the shop later), a simple crucifix with the short, round Christ representative of art of the 1100s. It was probably fifteen feet high; I took some photographs with Gerry in it, for scale.

The West Cross, Kilfenora, 2003. Blackbird on top.

The West Cross, Kilfenora, 2003. Blackbird on top.

You see, it’s huge. A raindrop obscures the crucifixion.

You see, it’s huge. A raindrop obscures the crucifixion.

You know, now we see these crosses as grey stone, with their carvings softened by age … but in its first life, this cross would have been brightly painted—a pretty impressive sight, if you use your imagination. High crosses were used much the way totem poles were used by the indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest of North America: to tell a story. The crosses, of course, told the gospel story to an unlettered populace.

It was peaceful, and quiet—a “soft day,” the Irish would say (just as the Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, the Irish have quite a few ways to say “rain”!), just a misty rain, and yes, soft. We were pleased that we’d come someplace so spiritual … and then a tour bus pulled up, so we left, grumbling.

Standing beside the West Cross, looking at what lies beyond it. Kilfenora, 2003.

Standing beside the West Cross, looking at what lies beyond it. Kilfenora, 2003.

From Kilfenora we were off to the Cliffs of Moher (pronounce this “mower,” like lawn mower), one of the most famous sites in Ireland, and one I really, really wanted to see. They are wild, rugged cliffs stretching along five miles on the western edge of the island, two hundred meters high, falling straight into the sea.

This is the path to the edge of the cliffs. Even on a rainy day there was a busker, playing his tin whistle. Cliffs of Moher 2003.

This is the path to the edge of the cliffs. Even on a rainy day there was a busker, playing his tin whistle. Cliffs of Moher 2003.

Unfortunately, the rain had intensified, and by the time we got to the cliffs, it was so misty that we couldn’t actually see them, even though they were literally right there under our noses. Naturally, I took my camera on the hike out to the edge, to take a picture of the thing I couldn’t see!

All you can see here is the flat top of the cliff; the rest is shrouded in mist. The white you see in the lower right is the foam of waves breaking against the cliff.

All you can see here is the flat top of the nearest cliff; the rest is shrouded in mist. The white you see in the lower right is the foam of waves breaking against the cliff.

There was a busker on the path, playing a tin whistle in the rain (I took a photo of him too). It was disappointing, to arrive at that place on a day of such thick mist, but it couldn’t be helped. Rain happens. So we repaired to the gift shop to purchase postcard photographs of the thing. I was single-handedly keeping the Irish postcard industry alive.

From there we headed to Doolin, a little village situated right on the northern boundary of the cliffs, and right on the sea. The view from the main road, in fact, was humbling.

Doolin looks like any other tiny sea village, but it is known for its heritage of Irish traditional music. The village and the surrounding area is home to many talented musicians, and other musicians come from all over the world, year ’round, to hear and participate. We couldn’t stay around for evening, when the music would begin, but we did visit a local music shop, where we bought a very cool T-shirt for Jesse.

Leaving the village, we had a very Irish experience: we encountered an Eireann bus stuck on a tight turn, and we were blocked in. The driver got out, noticed the rain, reentered the bus for his raincoat, came back out and had an animated conversation with a local chap who’d been watching. All the while, we waited. Finally, the passengers—a dozen or so European kids with backpacks—disembarked, headed up the road behind us for the youth hostel, and we were directed, very carefully, around the bus, a limited area next to an unforgiving stone wall.

We were driving through some of the most bleak country on earth. It’s called the Burren, a unique geological occurence of miles and miles of a limestone plateau, characterized by outcroppings and layers upon layers of rock. Everything is stone, both field and fences. I’ve called it bleak, but this bleakness has a profound beauty, and in fact geologists and botanists and archeologists converge on the Burren (from the Irish boireann, meaning a rock or a stony place) to study it, be4cause there are flora and fauna and prehistoric phenomenon found here and sometimes nowhere else.

In the Burren, there are plenty of rocks for fences.

In the Burren, there are plenty of rocks for fences.

Not a particularly hospitable place, though, the Burren.

Not a particularly hospitable place, though, the Burren.

It would have been a hard, hard existence here, eking out a life from this rough landscape. Indeed, the area has a bitter history associated with Oliver Cromwell, the English Lord Protector (he’d refused the crown of England after his victory in the English Civil War) who’d engaged in a ten-year war of extermination against the Irish, and by the mid-1600s had forced them to surrender. (Actually, Cromwell had it in for Catholics, full stop, not just Irish Catholics.) Cromwell tried once and for all to crush the Irish resistance to English rule by deporting thousands of land-owning Irishmen to west of the Shannon, saying he would send them “to Hell or Connaught!” (The Burren is a part of the province of Connaught.) At the sight of the poor and barren province, even one of Cromwell’s own generals observed that there were “neither water enough to drown a man, nor a tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him.” The area of Connaught to which the former landholders were assigned was—and still is—barren and totally unsuitable for the amount of farming that would need be done to sustain a population as large as that which was forced there by Cromwell.

There’s strong evidence of a thriving prehistoric life in the Burren too. There are megalithic stone hilltop cairns (graves), wedge tombs, and portal tombs (called dolmens) that date as far back as 3800 BC (although they were used well into the Bronze Age, which is put at 2200–500 BC). There are over 300 fulachta fiadh—horseshoe-shaped mounds of burnt stone, built around stone or timber water troughs, which are the remains of giant Bronze Age cooking-pits (remember, we saw a small one of these at the stone circle we found near Toormore), and there are stone circles too. There are several impressive stone forts that date from the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500). And early Christianity is represented as well, with up to 82 ecclesiastical sites—church ruins, cemeteries, hermitages and monastic enclosures, holy wells, saints’ seats or beds, and penitential stations—covering a millennium of worship.

I find this all quite amazing, considering the terrain.

So we drove through the Burren, in the soft-turned-soggy day, on roads barely wider than the car we were in, searching for some of the prehistoric sites I’d read about and longed to visit.

Driving around in the Burren in the rain, 2003.

Driving around in the Burren in the rain, 2003.

We found one (Cahermacnaughten, a stone fort which was inhabited down to late medieval times, where native Brehon lawyers carried on a celebrated law school until English rule in the seventeenth century finally ended such Gaelic traditions), and failed to find others in the pouring rain.

It doesn’t look like much now, Cahermacnaughten, 2003. But it was very important.

It doesn’t look like much now, Cahermacnaughten, 2003. But it was very important.

We drove through Lisdoonvarna and on to Kinvara, where we stopped for lunch at Keogh’s Bar on the main street. I had an open-faced sandwich of ham, tomatoes, cheese, and red onions on a thick slab of brown bread. The bread was so good—and this in a country that truly makes an art out of a humble loaf of bread—that I asked the proprietress about it. “Baked right here,” she told me, and thus “not in the shops.” She sensed my disappointment in that news, and offered to sell me a loaf if the chef would part with one. He did, and I snacked on that bread for days!

From Kinvara we drove on to Galway city, and straight to the city centre, where we parked and got out and shopped a bit. Although its population is only about 60,000, it is the fastest growing city in Europe; with a couple of universities, the city has a young, vibrant feel to it, yet it is grounded in its ancient roots as well.

But we weren’t staying in Galway city—we were going to Salthill. (Aren’t these names just great?) Thirty years ago Salthill—a little seaside resort town on the north shore of Galway Bay, Ireland’s answer to Atlantic City—was distinct from Galway city, but now is simply a part of it. It has a beautiful long promenade on the strand for strolling, with a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean … and our B&B, the Star of the Sea, was right across the street from it.

Our B&B, right across from Galway Bay, 2003. Looks small, doesn’t it! And yet there are six suites plus a kitchen and dining room. (Count the cars in the parking area and you’ll believe me.) We had one of the claustrophobic basement rooms.

Our B&B, right across from Galway Bay, 2003. Looks small, doesn’t it! And yet there are six suites plus a kitchen and dining room. (Count the cars in the parking area and you’ll believe me.) We had one of the claustrophobic basement rooms.

Galway Bay, just across from the B&B, at low tide, 2003. See the man in the lower left? He was walking a dog, which didn’t make it into this shot.

Galway Bay, just across from the B&B, at low tide, 2003. See the man in the lower left? He was walking a dog, which didn’t make it into this shot. Don’t forget, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Next we’ll head to the wilds of Connemara, so stay tuned!